Volunteering After Personal Loss

by Cherie Copsey

Many people feel they are ready to volunteer and to help others who are facing their own death or death of a loved one. However, as a patient/family volunteer, one’s motivation has to be absolutely clear. When one has recently suffered a loss, it’s hard to be sure when it’s time to take on something as intense as this kind of work.

In experiencing a death there is often unfinished business that needs to be dealt with before doing hospice work. Often times the survivor isn’t aware for quite a while of the issues that need closure. In grief you experience shock, denial, despair and many other intense emotions. They can take you on a roller coaster ride that is very hard to control. Many times these feelings surprise and overwhelm you in what we call grief-bursts or sneaker waves when you least expect them.

Hospice work is about being present with the dying or grieving. If you have not completed your own grieving, you may begin to mingle your grief with the hospice person’s process, which is not conducive to clarity for anyone.  Volunteers are usually ready to work with others when they have reached the milestones listed below and this may take 1 – 2 years after a loss.

Think about where you are in your process when considering if you are ready to do direct care as a hospice volunteer.

  • Pain of loss is less intense and emotions are stable.
  • Longer period of time between sad or down episodes.
  • Can listen and focus on other’s journey.
  • Humor, joy and the ability to laugh have returned.
  • Social and emotional reentry into the everyday world.
  • Experimenting with new ideas and things.
  • Positive outlook on going forward in life.
  • Energy returns.
  • Re-investing energy in people and experiences.
  • Setting new goals.

Volunteer Hospice needs volunteers in many areas. Many assignments do not center directly with the patient or family. Call the Hospice Director, and ask how you can contribute to Hospice.

Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

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